Quezon City. As campaign materials are removed, recycled or disposed of, a waste and pollution watchdog warned that the plastic tarpaulins widely used by most of the 44,448 candidates to lure voters in the recently-concluded elections may have all contained cadmium, a carcinogenic substance.
The group made the supposition after subjecting 200 pieces of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tarpaulins collected from different polling and posting areas to chemical analysis using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.
Results indicate total cadmium content up to 1,279 parts per million (ppm) in all the samples (100%), while lead up to 1,704 ppm was detected in 51 samples (25%).
“The results of our chemical analysis provide a valid basis for strong regulatory measures to curb the use of cadmium and lead in vinyl plastic materials such as tarpaulins, which can cause adverse effects to human health and the environment,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“The unregulated use of toxic additives in PVC tarpaulins creates a host of health and environmental concerns not only during their production and use, but also during their disposal; hence the need for strong regulations,” he added.
According to the EcoWaste Coalition, these regulatory measures could include:
A. The issuance by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of Chemical Control Orders (CCOs) that will ban the use of cadmium and lead as PVC stabilizers or pigments, require the use of safe alternatives, and ensure the environmentally-sound disposal of waste PVC.
B. The amendment of the Commission of Elections (COMELEC) Resolution No. 9615 dated January 15, 2013 that will make it mandatory on the part of political parties, candidates and other election stakeholders to use recyclable and environment-friendly campaign materials containing no hazardous chemicals.
C. The enactment of “Recyclable and Non-Toxic Campaign Materials Act” by the 16th Congress that will make future elections safe from harmful campaign paraphernalia.
Cadmium is classified as “carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) with inhalation as the main route exposure, the EcoWaste Coalition said.
Scientific studies have linked long-term exposure to cadmium to high blood pressure, age-related macular degeneration, and cancer of the breast, lung and kidney, which is considered the critical target organ for toxicity of cadmium in humans. Cadmium is likewise known as an endocrine disrupting chemical contributing to reproductive disorders in men, causing genital deformities and affecting male virility.
According to experts, “children’s developing bodies are especially vulnerable to damage from both lead and cadmium, but long-term exposure even at relatively low levels can be hazardous to anyone.”
Quoting a review of scientific information by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the EcoWaste Coalition said that “products containing cadmium are not typically collected separately from the general waste stream in developing countries. Therefore cadmium discards will end up in municipal waste and disposed of in landfills, incineration, open burning or indiscriminate dumping.”
“Some of the cadmium in these products will be released to the environment, the extent of which depends on disposal method, control technologies applied and other factors,” UNEP said.
In 2011, the European Union banned the use of cadmium in certain plastic materials “to reduce environmental pollution from cadmium.” The 27-nation bloc is currently assessing whether its use in other plastics should be further restricted.
The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of more than 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.
(click pdf document on final review of scientific information re